The date was Sunday May 14th, 2017 — Matchday 24 of the 2016/2017 season.
The highlight game of that round was the Superclasico, and Boca were feeling very confidant ahead of the game with no Carlos Tevez, but a Ricardo Centurion in superb form who just came back from an injury.
After a 4-2 victory in the Monumental a few months prior, it seemed very unlikely Boca were going to lose this one at home. After a massive reception form the home fans it was game on, writes Gabriel Aguero.
- 15′: River Plate strike first after Gino Peruzzi lost track of Gonzalo Martinez who snuck up behind him and scored a volley.
- 16′: Centurion had to be substituted out due to complications from his recent injury.
- 24′: Lucas Alario put the visitors up 2-0. Boca were completely lost and it seemed like every time the away team countered they were going to score.
The game ended 3-1 in favour of the visitors after a very bad defensive showing from Boca. It was a game where a classic No 5 [defensive midfield] player was required. A Javier Mascherano, or a Gennaro Gattuso: a tough player with an ability to fight every 50/50 ball and provide the defensive a sense of security.
Boca started that game with Rodrigo Bentancur, Fernando Gago, and Pablo Pérez as their three midfielders. and Gago was playing the No 5 spot. As we all know Gago has a tremendous passing ability, and is able to break lines with a single pass, but when it comes to breaking down a rival counterattack, he’s not the type of player to do so.
Recovering the ball and providing a sense of security for the defence is not his speciality. Little did everyone know that that type of player was sitting on the bench, waiting for an opportunity.
— Marca Claro Colombia (@MarcaClaroCol) February 20, 2018
Wilmar Barrios was a prospect brought in by Boca president Daniel Angelici. Recommended by club icon Mauricio “Chicho” Serna from his hometown club, Deportes Tolima.
Barrios played here and there, on the left and right flank, but never in the No 5 spot. After the 3-1 loss to arch rivals River, Schelotto realised change was needed and the back line needed help from midfield.
Bentancur, Gago, and Perez, all very good offensive players, but just could not provide the defensive help Guillermo was looking for. With the FIFA U-20 World Cup around the corner, and Bentancur called up to the Uruguayan National team, Boca called for a replacement.
Barrios was the player chosen for the following match at home against Newells Old Boys. Boca won the encounter 1-0 and Barrios’ name was chanted among the fans.
It was a great game for Barrios who had an 86% passing accuracy, completing 51 passes and only failing to find his target with 8. He lead the team in balls recovered with 10. A superb performance from the young Colombian, as Serna watched from the stands.
After the game Serna stated:
“He is in great form, he is made to wear the Boca colours. For a rival to pass him they will have to prance around him twice.”
Since that day, Barrios has been a starter for Boca and has proved to be a pillar in the midfield.
The importance of Barrios was seen in Boca’s last two matches. At the beginning of March Boca faced Alianza Lima in Peru. They played well and were very solid at the back. The two central defenders, Santiago Vergini and Agustín Heredia, didn’t have many complications and had an great game overall. Some even named Vergini the man of the match.
A few days later Boca (with a second-string team) faced Argentinos Juniors. It was a match where they were completely outplayed, and the same two central defenders that played in Lima had a match they would rather forget.
Argentinos toyed with both centre backs throughout the 90 minutes, and the only difference was that Barrios was not available to help them on this occasion due to a suspension for picking up 5 yellow cards.
These two matches prove Barrios is essential in Schelotto’s success at Boca Juniors. It’s Wilmar Barrios plus 10.